Baker walks onto the stage at Saint Luke’s, gives a timid wave which does little to calm the applause, grabs her guitar and bends down to adjust the loop station. Soon the first guitar notes reverberate in the room and judging by the grimace on her face and a change in body language, Baker has already switched off from her surroundings.
“I usually don’t know the capacities of the venues, because I’ve asked not to know, because it freaks me out”, Baker confessed in an interview with The New York Times. Luckily the singer-songwriter from Memphis, Tennessee, seems well suited for smaller venues like Saint Luke’s. Just like her records that do not scream for your attention but rather narrate their vulnerable stories to those who will listen, Baker too is soft-spoken and unassuming. However, you shouldn’t let her modest demeanor fool you – there is integrity in her resolve to be nothing but herself.
In a 2016 interview with Audiotree, Baker spoke of wanting to breach the gap between herself as a person and as an artist: “I try actively to refute the idea that I have a persona. That I have a persona of sad, bruting, broken artist”. Viewing herself in such terms makes for open communication between her and her audience, which takes place not only as she sings but also as she addresses the crowd directly in between songs. At the Glasgow show Baker spoke candidly about the process of learning to be more patient with herself and making mistakes.
It is clear that Baker does not strive to be admired but rather to share her music in the hopes of touching others. “What I think music’s focus should be (is) not an accessory to my ego but an interaction”, she explained in a recent interview with KEXP. As she tunes her guitar calmly in between songs, murmuring a quiet thank you that gets lost in the roars of applause, you can tell she has not let the praise change her or her music.
Baker’s surrender to music is captivating. She lets herself be carried by it, listening and feeling into every note as she sings with her eyes closed, seemingly leaving her body behind. Her dedication was admired by the crowd of hundreds who stood in total silence as she sang, hanging onto her every word before erupting into applause following songs such as ‘Rejoice’ and ‘Turn Out the Lights’.
Going to a Julien Baker concert is a cathartic experience. It is a welcome reminder that fortunately it is not always the one who screams the loudest who is heard but the one who has something to say, and the right people will listen. The soft-spoken indie singer-songwriter is speaking out.
Image: Sachyn Mital via Wikimedia Commons